I’ve read a few times about the Marcionites, an early Christian sect that had significant influence but was declared heretical. It has some ideas in common with Christian Gnosticism, but lacks the emphasis on secret teachings. Instead, Marcion held that ONLY the letters of Paul and parts of the Gospel of Luke were valid.
He was also distinguished by his view on the Old Testament, believing that it was true as far as it went, but that the Jewish God couldn’t possibly be the one who sent Jesus. It’s certainly not an uncommon belief even today that the Old Testament God is a wrathful jerk and the New Testament God a nice guy. Of course, this is simplifying things considerably, as God showed compassion in the Old Testament and preached hellfire in the New. Marcion’s view was that there were two different gods, the law-obsessed cosmic judge of Judaism and the kindly and more powerful deity of whom Jesus was a manifestation. Jesus was not the Jewish Messiah, who was yet to come. There wasn’t much point in following the Jewish law, because it was impossible to meet all of its demands. Of course, the Old Testament pretty much acknowledges this, as it has a lot of rules about atoning for sin. The early Christian view on the Jewish law was a matter of much debate. It generally seems that Jesus and his earliest followers were devoted to the law, even if they interpreted some aspects of it quite differently from the Pharisees. In Matthew 5:17, Jesus says, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” It was Paul, Marcon’s main man, who more or less made the law optional in an attempt to appeal to potential pagan converts.
It isn’t surprising that mainstream Christianity would reject Marcionism, as having only one god was what separated it from the myriad of other religions in the Roman Empire. Still, it seems that its influence lives on in some strange ways, only here they’re from people who DO believe the Old and New Testament Gods are the same. It’s what Jack Chick is constantly insisting, that nobody can possibly follow the Old Testament law, so you need to accept Jesus.
It’s not entirely clear what accepting him necessarily entails, but it seems to involve a lot of groveling. Exactly why God changed His mind on the sin stuff when He incarnated as Jesus, I don’t know. Chick’s reasoning (if you can call it that) is that Jesus’ death on the cross paid for everyone’s sins, but how does that work if he’s the same guy who made the law in the first place?
It would actually make a little more sense for Chick to be a Marcionite.
Similarly, washed-up actor and holier-than-thou prick Kirk Cameron and his kiwi pal Ray Comfort did the same thing over and over again where they’d ask people if they followed the Ten Commandments, then insisted that telling the slightest untruth, being attracted to someone you weren’t married to, and using the name of God while cursing counted as breaking them. I don’t think that’s exactly how false witness and taking the name of God in vain work, but these aren’t exactly theological scholars we’re dealing with here. My wife, who has an odd desire to be exposed to things she hates, is actually following Cameron on Facebook. Recently he talked about how he spent his birthday with some of the Duck Dynasty guys, and he compared one of them to John the Baptist.
Yeah, except if you live on locusts and wild honey, you probably aren’t going to be shooting a lot of ducks. And even if you think homosexuality is a sin, isn’t Jesus supposed to forgive ALL your sins? So he’s forgiving murderers and rapists right and left, but not people in committed gay relationships? He’s also apparently not forgiving people who kiss anyone other than their spouses while acting.
But anyway, the general theme of the teachings of Chick and Comfort is that God is so just that even the slightest bit of sin means he’ll condemn you to Hell, but there’s a way to get out of it totally if you think and say the right things. He’s not able to make minor exceptions, but he’s able to make this one really big and really specific exception. Hey, he didn’t make the rules! No, wait, he did. So he’s rejecting one set of seemingly arbitrary rules for another set of seemingly arbitrary rules. Dudes, if this is your idea of spreading the good news, I think Jesus would be better off without you.